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Publication Detail
Perspectives on the Pursuit of Professional Learning: Insights from Teachers who are Mothers
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    O'Brien EA
  • Date awarded:
  • Awarding institution:
    UCL (University College London)
  • Language:
The majority of teachers in England are women and many will become mothers at some point during their careers. As most women undertake the main caring role in the family, it is important to investigate their experience of pursuing professional learning whilst raising their children. In 2016 I interviewed six teachers who are mothers of children under ten years to explore their experiences of pursuing professional learning. The research concerns the following questions: how do the teachers who are mothers regard professional learning and its pursuit? What have been their experiences and what challenges have they encountered when pursuing professional learning? And how have they responded to challenges in order to pursue professional learning? The theoretical framework of the research comprises a Bourdieusian analytical lens underpinned by a materialist feminist perspective whilst drawing on life history approaches and thematic analysis. The women are introduced through six portraits, before moving to a presentation of data where thematic analysis is employed to compare and contrast the women’s experiences. Extending the analysis, I harness Bourdieu’s theory of practice to magnify the women’s narratives and consider their experiences of pursuing professional learning in Bourdieusian terms. The methodology combining life history and thematic analysis methods with Bourdieu’s theory of practice working in concert with materialist feminism, offers an original contribution to the discourse around women’s professional learning experiences, as teachers who are mothers. My thesis asserts the need to cultivate a greater understanding of the professional needs of teachers who are mothers and to recalibrate perceptions of women teaching part-time. A primary audience is senior leadership in schools; those best placed to inculcate the changes needed to support teachers in their pursuit of professional learning. However, the impact of raising children on mothers’ potential to pursue professional learning necessitates crucial conversations amongst policy makers, stakeholders, professional learning providers, and in wider society.
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